Lately I’ve found that I’m one of those guys who only really learns his lesson once he’s made a buttload of big mistakes. On the one hand, big failures really suck and can get you down, but on the other, they’re a valuable tool in discovering what works best for you.
But you’ve already heard this “failure is good” part before, I bet, so lemme cut to the finish line. You want to know the single best way to develop your humor writing skills? Shoot, you want to know the single best way to develop ANY skill?
Keep these two factors in mind and you’ll go far:
- Always be having fun.
- Always be learning about your craft.
At first glance, these sound painfully obvious. Especially number two – a good crafter of words knows that reading a lot is essential. But notice that it comes after “Always be having fun”. Why? Because having fun is the highest priority.
If you’re not having a grand ol’ time with your work, pack it in and go do something else. Trust me.
And again, this sounds obvious…but let me explain deeper, with my own personal experience.
Now, your friendly neighborhood Matt Willard didn’t always want to be a comedian. He wanted to publish graphic novels for a living and he figured, “well, if I want to make this happen, I need good art skills”. And so he started drawing a lot, purchased and read many drawing books in an attempt to become prime artist real estate.
But those results didn’t come as fast as I hoped. So I figured I’d step it up. I’d practice more, read more books, work hard to discover that one secret I needed to become an incredible artist. At one point I set myself on a daily program where I drew shoes and lamps for an hour. Maybe I’d get better if I kept it up.
There was just one problem: drawing became a total pain in the ass.
You know how you’re supposed to practice every day? I didn’t. Why? Because I saw it as a CHORE. I failed to realize that, if I really enjoyed drawing, I wouldn’t be looking at it as work. But by forcing myself to draw shoes and lamps, or daily practice with portraits and figures, I lost sight of the reason I started drawing – because I ENJOYED IT.
And eventually I couldn’t take it anymore. I got fed up. I tossed my books and supplies in the closet and haven’t bothered with this artist business since.
Yes, you need to develop skills and techniques to succeed at any craft. But if you’re sitting there like I did, doodling boring junk out of OBLIGATION, you’ll drive yourself crazy. However, if you made it your holy mission to draw out of enjoyment, draw only cool and fun stuff, draw comics and fanart and other sweet pictures, then you’ll be having a blast AND developing your skills. Maybe you won’t get there as fast…but at least you won’t want to punch the entire world on the way.
If you take anything away from these columns, it should be your priority on keeping things fun. Everything else should branch from this single desire. You won’t always be having fun, but you’ll be fine as long as you don’t treat it like a grim duty. It’s not business before pleasure…it’s a balance of both.
Do you have any questions about humor writing that you want me to answer? What would you like to see me cover in future columns? Leave me a comment telling me what you’d like to see!